MUTEK is a refuge for people looking for something more from a music festival

Rich Aucoin, Honeydrip and Kyoka are among our highlights of this year’s immersive electronic music and digital arts festival, running from Aug. 22 to 27.

If you’re reading this article, you’re either someone who lives for the party — the sweaty dance-filled rooms that reverberate deep into the twilight hours — or maybe you’re someone who doesn’t get out much, by choice, and you’re looking for a personal odyssey or some kind of collective escape. 

Either way, the 24th iteration of MUTEK will provide. Yes, for 24 years this immersive electronic music and digital arts festival has been a refuge for people looking for something more from a music festival; a place where technology and creativity go hand in hand and audio visual performances are permanently burned in your memory banks and retinas.

It can be quite exhausting and anxiety-inducing to come up with your own itinerary for a festival, especially one as expansive as MUTEK. So we at Cult MTL made a little cheat sheet for you — follow it to a tee, or don’t; we won’t fault you.

MUTEK is six days of constant stimulation, which can be a lot for any mere mortal, so sometimes it is best to just walk into a random late night show at the SAT. Personally, I go based on the craziest name without having any prior knowledge as to what I’m about to experience. Hieroglyphic Being, the experimental Afrofuturism / ambient acid-jazz meets techno moniker of Chicago’s Jamal Moss, might win based on that criteria this year.  

The next event I’d check out actually takes place the weekend before MUTEK proper — on Aug. 18 and 19 at Usine C. It’s called INSCAPE: NEW HOMEOSTASIS and promises a large collaboration between a bunch of sound artists, programmers, video installationists and more. It’s also meant to celebrate the creative relationship between Canada and the Republic of Korea with the Korean artists GRAYCODE, jiiiiin, Kohui, and ASTATIC | YEONO. It’s two nights and I’d definitely at least check out one.

New to MUTEK’s programming this year is a series called Experimental Listening, which promises to be an “intimate and welcoming setting” for an optimized music consuming experience. Based on photos, it looks like a bunch of bean bag chairs in a small room while some strange lights and some of the most experimental IDM reverberates between the walls. It sounds like a great time, and one act to definitely check out during this optimized experience is Ale Hop, a Peruvian, Berlin-based artist who utilizes real-time sampling devices and modular synths that she makes sound like guitars. It’s kind of like building a wall of sound, but sometimes it feels like you’re in the jungle.

For the rave crowd — but the rave crowd looking for something intense and more thought-provoking than your typical techno — check out Paraadiso, a collaboration between Italian DJ and producer Guglielmo Barzacchini aka TSVI and multimedia sound wizard Matteo Zamagni, who goes by Seven Orbits.

Even though MUTEK has never had a “true headliner” list before, Kyoka, a Japanese sound and installation artist, electronic music producer and DJ based in Berlin, could easily fill that slot. She’s the first female artist signed to Raster-Noton — a label home to artists such as the late Ryuichi Sakamoto and William Basinski. If those names mean nothing to you, I feel sorry for you, but trust me when I say Kyoka is hardcore. And in this iteration she is collabing with Shohei Fujimoto, a Tokyo-based media artist, for a hypnotic live set all about neuroscience and the human brain.

Next up is Rich Aucoin, a, East Coast Canadian who is probably better known as an experimental pop guru who runs around the stage (and in the audience), but his latest projects are an album series called Synthetic, a four-part “tentacular opus composed with the rare and historic synth collection of Calgary’s National Music Centre.” I doubt he’ll be able to haul 40 synths across the country, but you never know with Rich.

Last, but not even close to least, is Honeydrip, a local, experimental bass/house/dancehall cerberus led by Tiana McLaughlan, a Montreal digital artist with a BFA in computation arts from Concordia University (see our new interview with Honeydrip here), and King Shadrock, a Jamaican-born, Montreal-based “reggae singer known for his timeless and conscious music.” Honeydrip is a bit Burna Boy, a bit Bassnectar, but also echoes some vibes of acts like Prodigy or even Portishead. Actually, the whole show that Honeydrip is midway on has a wild lineup of electronica, breakbeats, ambient, drum & bass and dirty techno, all the way till three or four in the morning. Let your freak flag fly high at this year’s MUTEK.

MUTEK is on from Aug. 22–27 at various venues. For more, please visit their website.

MUTEK 2023

This article was originally published in the August 2023 issue of Cult MTL.

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